Read part 1 of this to hear my overall thoughts about television and see my runner ups. Also, shout out to Marvelous Mrs. Maisel which I’ll probably love, but haven’t finished yet.
10. Big Mouth (season 1)
This is probably the dirtiest show I’ve ever watched, like, I’m telling you not to watch it–it’s that dirty. But if you can get past that you’ll find a really affecting series about coming to understanding with one’s self and body in what can be the most fragile years of existence. In ramping up the honesty to 1,000%, creator Nick Kroll makes a comedy about puberty really moving, and even necessary, particularly in the ways it captures a multitude of growing up experiences.
9. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (season 2)
Rachel Bloom’s comedy-musical takes lead character Rebecca Bunch’s “craziness” even further in season 2, making you question how they’ll ever be able to answer for her actions (they brilliantly answer this in season 3). Bloom’s songs are brilliantly funny (I’ll never be able to think of the Santa Ana winds again) and she’s created a wonderful cast of characters that will hopefully stick around for years to come.
8. The Americans (season 5)
Probably the least action packed of all the seasons and almost serves as a precursor to its sixth and final season, but the Jennings’ family internal politics is just as fascinating as the global spy ones by this point. The family grapples with exactly how to be a family while living as Russian spies in the USA and it feels just as consequential as the decisions made by global leaders.
7. Fargo (season 3)
No question it’s the worst of the three seasons, but by the time it all wraps up with Mary Elizabeth Winstead facing off against Ewan McGregor, I was all in.
6. Lady Dynamite (season 2)
Believe it or not, Maria Bamford’s semi autobiographical comedy about her life in comedy and her mental health issues gets even wackier in season 2. This time she uses her past life and a weird world in the future where she’s been given her own television show by a company called “Tuskvision” (whose logo is in Netflix red) to make sense of her life in current times. It’s a quick-witted and meta comedy that fills the Arrested Development void in our hearts as Bamford forges ahead as one the most creative comedians working.
5. Big Little Lies (season 1)
I just finished watching this and I wonder how different it would have felt watching it at its original air date in April. This was the pre-cursor to our post-Weinstein world and it’s ending almost feels like a representative recompense for all that’s happened. Each woman in this show is affected by gross abuses of power in the hand’s of men and its conclusion, while violent, hopes to break the cycle which if never brought to the light will never be broken. Plus, Reese Witherspoon absolutely crushes it here.
4. Stranger Things 2
I thought the first season of Stranger Things was pretty good, but flawed. Season 2 was instantly intriguing, highlighting the great parts of last season, and paying off every story line with a heartbreaking satisfaction (Bob’s story, the reuniting of Eleven and Mike, everything with Dustin). It worked better for me on almost every level this time around and was an absolute joy to watch.
3. Nathan For You (season 4)
Nathan Fielder’s reality show is in essence a program to help small businesses find their footing, but in reality mocks the process of the whole system, finding shortcuts wherever possible, while showing that there’s a lot of people willing to do a lot if they think they’ll be on television. Season 4 seems to be even more focused on those loopholes, finding Nathan getting a doctor’s note to be able to sneak chili into a minor league hockey game and paying someone to legally change his name in order trick the local news into thinking actor Michael Richards had given an extra large tip. It all concludes with the brilliant “Finding Frances” which brings back a beloved character from the 1st season and follows him on an epic and hilarious journey.
2. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (season 4)
John Oliver’s weekly late night show combines the depth of policy of Vox’s The Weeds podcast, the tenacity of community organizing, and pitch-perfect comedic chops all into one show. It’s the kind of show that a hip civics teacher would show their students to inform them about policy issues and interest them in current political happenings. We needed this show more than ever this year to shine light, to be the silliest voice of reason, and to call us into action whenever possible.
1. Master of None (season 2)
A consummation of Aziz Ansari’s interests, there’s really no other show out there that as boldly does what it wants. From its opening moments which see Ansari in Italy, in a beautiful black and white ode to The Bicycle Thief, to the award winning Thanksgiving episode which slowly shows Denise coming out to her parents across a series of Thanksgiving dinners. There’s a will they or won’t romance which delightfully plays out across the back half of the season, an episode that completely abandons its main characters to follow a diverse array of people in the city, and an episode all about modern dating. There was no other television show that made me more thrilled to see what would happen next than Master of None.